Waiting for Superman

By Yvonne Connell <Yvonne@yconnell.fsnet.co.uk>

Rated PG

Submitted Sept 2004

Summary: An attempt to write a poignant story about Superman, a rescue, and what happened to Clark as a result.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Meredith Knight for BRing this story.

***

I love watching her eat. Neatly and nimbly, she clears her plate, leaving not a single morsel behind. She's a very tidy eater and doesn't rush her food She eats steadily, savouring each mouthful. You can really tell she enjoys it, and she has a surprisingly voracious appetite for someone so small.

Afterwards we sit on the sofa together, she on my lap, me stroking her. She's warm and soft, and she purrs, a soft sound of pure contentment. I feel myself relax, the kinks and knots of tension in my shoulders smoothing away. She's so good for me.

It wasn't love at first sight. It's taken us a little while to get to know each other, and even longer to learn to trust each other. We didn't meet under ideal circumstances, you see. I was distracted and hardly noticed her at first. It wasn't until she made a fuss that I saw her, and I think it took her a while to forgive me for that.

These days, though, we're like an old couple. We know each other's habits and moods, know when to be cuddly and close and when to stay out of each other's way. She stretches indulgently on my lap, then settles back again. I think she might fall asleep now, but I don't mind. It's been a long day and I'm happy just to sit quietly with her.

She's not always so peaceful. She can be pretty feisty at times — it's a good thing I'm invulnerable, otherwise she might well have drawn blood by now. I guess it's her independent spirit that makes us clash, and if I'm being honest, I can be pretty stubborn, too. The result is that we don't always agree: I want to do things my way and she wants to do them her way.

Of course, she can also be aloof and haughty when she thinks I've done wrong. I get ignored on a regular basis.

Then again, sometimes she's playful — she forgets her age and does something for the pure fun of it. I join in and before I know it, we're cavorting around like a couple of youngsters.

It's times like those that make me really glad I decided to share my apartment with her. I think I'm a better person since she came into my life. She lightens my spirit and makes me feel wanted. She's my own personal welcoming party whenever I arrive home.

Oh, and we share another bond, she and I. One that goes deeper than all the others, and which will probably keep us together no matter how often we argue or hurt each other.

We share a loss.

You see, when I mentioned before that we met under difficult circumstances, I didn't give you the full story. We actually met in a burning building.

The place was an inferno by the time I arrived. I'd been on the other side of town dealing with a tricky hostage situation when I'd heard the call, and hadn't been able to respond immediately without jeopardising the lives of the hostages. When I finally arrived, I could see immediately that I was too late. Flames leapt high from all the windows and the roof was on fire. Still, I plunged into the blaze and began to search for the elderly gentleman the neighbours outside had said lived there.

I found him in his bedroom. He'd tried to ward off the fire by shoring up the door with bedclothes, but his efforts had been futile against the intensity of the flames. He'd died in his bed, and I could only hope that the fumes from the thick, pungent smoke which filled the room had sent him unconscious before the flames had reached him.

For a long moment, I was frozen, gazing down at this lost life, this person who'd lived through world wars and terrorist attacks, who'd gathered up a lifetime's wisdom and experience, only to have it all snatched away by the obscenely arbitrary fire that raged around us. People would no doubt say what a blessing it was that he was old anyway. Thank goodness, they'd say, that it wasn't the young family down the road. But to me, all life is precious. Old or young, it's all the same. No-one should die like this.

I was deciding on the safest and most dignified way to lift him up and take him out — the least I could do for him was to respect him in death as much as I would have if he were alive — when I heard her. A faint, distressed-sounding voice, coming from behind me. I whirled around, the flames licking around my feet and threatening to set my cape ablaze. In one corner stood an old, heavy wooden wardrobe — the sound seemed to be coming from there. I strode through the flames and snatched open the door.

She was cowering on the floor, a quivering ball of black and white fur pressed tightly into the furthest corner of the wardrobe. I bent to pick her up and she flinched. Terrified that she would bolt away from me and into the fire, I snatched her up at superspeed, ignoring her loud protestations and wrapping her in my cape to help protect her from the fire. Then I turned to the old man and wrapped him in those pieces of blanket which hadn't yet been consumed by fire — not easy when you're holding a wriggling, terrified cat under one arm. I lifted him as gently as I could, and the three of us made our way out of the fire and into the cool of the night.

I delivered the old man to the waiting paramedics and then released her to a more comfortable position in my arms. She mewed and seemed to reach out a paw to him. I knew then that we shared a common sense of loss. I, because I should have been there in time for him, and she, because he was her dear companion and carer.

No-one seemed to think the old man had any family and none of his neighbours wanted to take her in, so I told people she'd be with my friend, Clark Kent, until he was able to take her to the pound.

She was still shivering when I got her home. In fact, both of us were shaky. I couldn't get the image of that old man lying dead in his bed out of my head. It was such a waste. All those precious memories were gone for ever. No matter whether he'd been a lively contributor to the community or a wizened recluse, he'd been a person with a life story to tell, someone who must have touched people's lives throughout his long years on this earth.

So lonely, too, to die alone, and in such dreadful circumstances. He must have been terrified.

However, his cat needed food and water, and I was forced to pull myself together for her sake. I put aside the guilt that always comes after a needless death and turned myself to her needs. To this day, I'm not sure I would have survived the rest of the night without her.

The following day, she was better. She still shied away from me and seemed lost and confused, but she no longer trembled with fright. I'd planned to take her to the pound on my way to work, but it seemed heartless to abandon her in the state she was in. I decided to keep her for a little while longer.

That was nearly three weeks ago, and she's still here. No-one has claimed her, and with each passing day, I've grown more and more attached to her. Luckily, I can fly home from work in seconds, so I'm able to keep any eye on her — something I did a lot in the early days. It seemed important to give her the best care I could, you see. It was the least I could do for the old man who died waiting for Superman to rescue him.

She's asleep now, as I expected. I rest my head back on the cushions, more at peace with myself than I've felt in a long time. I think maybe I'm ready to visit my parents now. I'll take her with me. If I fly slowly enough she should be okay, and I think she'll enjoy the farm.

***

Clark's been subdued for the past couple of weeks. He's my partner at work, and, I guess, also a good friend. So I'm getting a little worried about him. He says he's run ragged looking after the cat that Superman left with him, but I think it's more than that.

After all, he's a farm boy. He should be used to dealing with animals, and anyway, surely all a cat needs is milk? Oh, and that disgusting stuff in tins. And I haven't even dared ask him where it goes to relieve itself. I hope his apartment doesn't smell. I haven't visited since he went all native and started rearing animals in his living room.

Not that I can understand why he's still got the wretched creature. Doesn't he realise he's living in a city now, not in some hayloft in Kansas? We city dwellers don't do animal husbandry — we leave that to those simply country folk in places like Smallville. That cat belongs in the city pound.

Anyway, forget the cat. Back to Clark

More than once, I've caught him daydreaming at work. At first, I made a joke of it — briskly told him to snap out of it and start pulling his weight in the partnership. That worked for a while, but he still had moments when he'd disappear someplace else in his head.

So then I got impatient with him. I mean, how are you supposed to produce incisive pieces of journalism when your partner's never really there half the time? You ask him a question and he responds with a dopey look as if you just spoke to him in jibberish.

But whenever I yelled at him, he just apologised wanly. That's not like Clark. Usually, he can give as good as he gets — he's one of the few people in the newsroom who actually stands up to me. I'd never admit this to him, but that's why I've put up with him as a partner for so long. Incredibly, I find myself respecting Clark Kent, the country bumpkin from Smallville.

Anyway, I'm now worried, like I said. I think something's wrong, and it's not just a poorly house-trained cat who's tearing his furniture apart or weeing all over the carpet. This is something deeper than that.

So I've made up my mind. I'm going to make him tell me what's wrong.

I stand up and go over to his desk. He's apparently reading his screen, but I can tell from the glazed look in his eyes that he's daydreaming again. I reach over and switch his screen off.

"Conference room," I say. "Now."

He blinks myopically up at me. "Huh?"

"I need to talk to you," I say. "In private."

He frowns. "Right now? I'm working on that gas leak story-"

"You hadn't even noticed the screen-saver had kicked in," I tell him. "That's how focused on the gas leak story you were."

"I'm not getting a lot of sleep," he begins. "My cat-"

"Can't possibly need all the attention you claim to give it," I finish for him. "Conference room, now."

He looks irritated, but I don't care. I've made up my mind, and that's that. I turn and make my way across the newsroom, knowing he'll follow me however irritated he might be.

***

"Okay, let's have it," I demand as soon as he's joined me in the conference room and the door is safely shut. "You've been moody and distracted for weeks now, and I want to know why. I can't work with you like this."

He stares at me. "What?"

"You heard me," I retort. "Half the time we're working together you're someplace else. I mean, you're here in person, but there's no-one home up there." I point at his head. "Sometimes I have to repeat myself three times before you hear me."

"And I guess that's pretty inconvenient for you," he says.

"Well, yes." That was an odd thing he said, and I study him suspiciously for some hidden meaning in his words. "I may as well not have a partner at all, these past couple of weeks."

"Really," he says.

"Yes, really," I reply.

"Well, I'm glad we got that cleared up," he says. "I'll get back to that story. See if I can focus a little more to your liking."

He swivels on his feet and makes for the door.

Damn. I think I hurt his feelings. "Wait, Clark," I call, intercepting him at the door. I put a hand on his arm. "I'm worried about you," I tell him.

"Could have fooled me," he retorts.

"No, really," I insist. "I can tell something's eating you up inside. You don't answer back at me any more."

A corner of his mouth curled upwards. "And that's a bad thing?"

"Yes," I say, pleased that I've raised at least half a smile from him. "What's wrong, Clark? Has something happened at home? Are your parents okay?"

He sighs. "They're fine." He steps back into the room and closes the door. "I'm fine."

"You don't seem fine."

"I'm just a little tired, that's all," he insists.

That lame excuse again. "I don't believe any cat can need that much looking after," I say, careful to keep the heat out of my voice this time. "There's something else, isn't there?"

"I…" He looks like he's about to give me another lame excuse, but I show him I'm not prepared to listen to any more stories about his darned cat by shaking my head slowly. He gets the message. "You're right, something did happen," he confesses at last. "But I'm pretty much over it now."

"What was it?" I ask softly. My hand seems to have landed on his arm again.

He shrugs. One of those single-shouldered shrugs he sometimes does. "Just one of those sad things that happens in a city. Well, it could happen anywhere, I guess."

"What could happen?" I ask.

He shrugs again.

"You don't want to tell me, do you?" I'm just a little hurt that he doesn't want to share his problems with me. I mean, if he's not going to share them with me, his partner, who is he going to share them with? His cat?

"No," he replies. "I appreciate you asking, but, well, I'd just rather put it all behind me. Sorry."

"Oh." So much for trying to help your work colleagues. Maybe I won't bother next time.

"Look," he says, "I'm sorry if I've been hard to work with lately. Maybe I can make it up to you."

"It's okay, Clark," I reply. "We all have our ups and downs. I just wanted to be sure you were okay."

"How about dinner?" he asks. "It's about time you met my cat."

I try to keep the instant revulsion off my face. Me, meet a cat? He has to be kidding. "Oh, it's your cat, now, is it?" I reply, neatly, in my opinion, side-stepping the question. "I thought it was that old man's cat."

There's a flicker of something in his eyes. Sadness, maybe? "She was, but she seems to have adopted me now."

"Well, I'm very happy for you both," I say. "I hope you'll be very happy together."

"Oh, come on, Lois," he says. "You'll like her, I'm sure. She's a lot like you."

He's got something else in his eyes now. It looks suspiciously like a twinkle. "Then we'll probably hate each other," I point out.

The twinkle develops into a full-blown grin. "Don't tell me you're afraid of her!" he exclaims. "Lois Lane, intrepid investigator, is frightened of a small furry animal?"

"Of course not," I reply. "I just wouldn't want to upset her."

"Oh, she'll be fine," he replies. "But will you? I guess a cat's claws can be pretty daunting."

He's trying to wind me up. And, dammit, he's succeeding. "I'll have you know I've faced off some pretty ferocious guard dogs in my time," I retort.

"Then a small black and white cat will be no problem," he says. "I'll see you at seven."

***

She's sitting on her favourite spot on my sofa. It used to be my favourite spot too until she took it over. Now I sit at the other end.

The doorbell rings.

"Be nice," I tell her. "Lois is a good friend."

She licks her paw disinterestedly but I know she's listening really.

"Okay. Do I look all right?" I ask her.

She licks her other paw.

"Fine," I reply. "Remember what I said about being on your best behaviour."

I leave her to contemplate that and open the door to Lois. She peers around me. "Hi," she says. "I'm here." She's still peering either side of me.

"I can see that," I reply. "Is that for me?" I ask, nodding at the wine bottle she's clutching.

"Oh!" she replies, looking at it as if she's only just noticed she's holding it. "Yes." She thrusts it towards me.

"Thank you," I say, studying the label while stepping aside to let her in. "Come on in," I invite.

Lois steps hesitantly across the threshold.

"I hope those aren't your best jeans," I remark, stepping down into the living room. "Black's her favourite colour."

"Oh?" says Lois. "Why should that matter?"

"Well, she'll probably want to sit on you," I explain. "And since she's a black and white cat, you might find you get a few hairs…"

"Sit on me?" repeats Lois, clearly aghast at the prospect.

"Yeah. But don't worry, the vet trimmed her claws last week, so she's quite safe."

I place the bottle on the table and cross to the sofa. Lois is now hovering in the middle of the room, staring fixedly at the cat.

"Lucy, meet Lois," I say to the cat. "Lois, meet Lucy."

"You named your cat after my sister?" Lois exclaims.

I shrug. "I told you, she's a lot like you, but I thought you'd object if I named her Lois." I pick Lucy up — she's clearly feeling pretty mellow because she doesn't complain like she sometimes does — and take her across to my nervous guest. "Here, say hello."

Lois looks warily at Lucy. "Nice kitty," she says. "Very nice kitty."

"Would you like to stroke her?" I suggest. "She won't mind."

"Um…" Lois reaches out a cautious hand and runs it very lightly over Lucy's back. "Hi, Clark's cat."

"See?" I say. "She likes you already."

"How do you know?" Lois asks, stroking Lucy again a little more boldly. "She hasn't done anything."

I laugh. "Exactly."

"Oh." Lois withdraws her hand quickly.

"Want to hold her?"

"No, this is quite close enough, thank you," says Lois.

I take pity on Lois and let Lucy down onto the carpet. She pads around our feet for a bit then rubs slowly up against Lois's leg.

"What does that mean?" asks Lois.

"Well, either she wants to mate with you or she likes your jeans," I say, trying to keep a straight face.

Lois's expression is a picture of appalled distaste. "Tell her I'm not her type."

I laugh. "Come on, let's sit. Would you like some wine?"

Lois nods vigorously and heads for the sofa. "Wine would be good."

I open the bottle, pour a couple of glasses and take one over to her. She's sitting warily eyeing Lucy, who's padding around Lois's feet and rubbing herself against Lois's legs again.

"She seems very…friendly," remarks Lois.

"Oh, she is," I agree. "She hasn't even complained that you're sitting on her favourite seat," I add mischievously.

"This is hers?" asks Lois, shifting nervously. "Maybe I should move…"

"No, don't worry," I tell her. "She'll just sit on you instead of the sofa."

"I see," says Lois, now glued rigidly to the spot. "Are we eating soon?"

"Sure! Just let me put together the finishing touches…"

I head over to the kitchen, leaving Lois and Lucy to continue acquainting themselves with each other. I know I'm being mean to Lois, who clearly isn't too comfortable around cats, but it's hard to resist having a little fun at her expense for a change. I'm usually the one on the receiving end of her acerbic remarks and not-so-funny jokes.

When I return to announce dinner, Lois has a cat on her lap. In fact, Lucy looks really content sitting there, and her mottled coat goes great with Lois's black jeans. Lois, surprisingly, doesn't look too bad. She's actually stroking Lucy, albeit rather gingerly.

"Dinner's ready," I say. "Want me to rescue you?"

Lois looks up. "She won't mind? She's only just settled." She gives Lucy another stroke. "I think she wants to have a snooze."

I smile. "You're right, but our dinner awaits." I bend down and lift Lucy from Lois's lap. "Come on, Luce. You can sleep while we're eating." I give her a quick cuddle and set her down onto the carpet. She'll settle back on the sofa once Lois is seated at the table.

***

We're drinking after-dinner coffee and Lucy is snoozing in my lap. The meal was a great success, especially the Belgian chocolate mousse I made for desert. Lois adored that, as I'd hoped. The conversation was good, too. I'm trying to keep this a light-hearted evening — just dinner between friends — and so far it seems to be working pretty well. Deep down, I wish it could be more than that, but I know Lois doesn't feel the same way about me as I do about her. I'm hoping to change that eventually, but it takes time, unfortunately.

"You seem to have grown really attached to her," remarks Lois.

I look up from stroking Lucy. "I guess I have."

"Why, Clark?" she asks. "I mean, I know you grew up on a farm, but you've never seemed that big on the whole pet deal. Is it because Superman left her with you?"

She's close enough to the truth for me to nod. "Kind of. He felt bad that he hadn't been able to save her owner."

I hadn't meant for that to slip out, but now that it had, it sort of hung there in the air between us.

"But that's…that's…I mean, he does so much," says Lois eventually. "He can't be expected to rescue absolutely everyone who's in trouble."

I nod. "He knows that, but it doesn't stop him wishing he could." I'm stroking Lucy again and she's purring like a well-tuned engine.

"Then he's almost as much of a lunkhead as you are," Lois states crisply. "You can tell him that the next time you see him."

"I will." She's right, of course. I can't be everywhere at the same time. But I'd still give anything for that old man to be stroking Lucy instead of me.

"Honestly, you and Superman. You could almost be twins."

"Huh?" I do a quick mental inventory. Yup, glasses still in place. Hair not slicked back.

"Well, when one of you is depressed, so is the other," she says. "It's like you mirror each other's moods."

"Weird co-incidence, I guess," I say quickly. "Never noticed it before myself. Say, how about some more coffee? I think there's enough for another cup."

"No, thanks," she replies. "Actually, I should be going."

"But it's still early!" I protest.

"Not that early," she says, "and it's been a long day. I'm tired."

"Well, if you're sure," I say, disappointed she's not staying longer.

She stands up. "Thanks for dinner, Clark. I really enjoyed this evening."

"No problem," I reply, following her to the door with Lucy still in my arms. "I enjoyed your company."

She opens the door and seems to hesitate. Turns to me. Looks up at me thoughtfully. "Put down the cat, Clark."

Huh? I frown at her.

"Put her down," Lois repeats.

Puzzled, I set Lucy down. She lets out a mew of protest at being abandoned and goes off to sulk. I'm going to get ignored later, I can tell.

As I straighten up, Lois catches my face between her hands and plants a light kiss on my lips. "Thanks for introducing me to Lucy," she murmurs.

I'm so surprised I don't know what to say. I'd like to kiss her back — fervently, passionately and longingly, I'd like to kiss her — but the timing feels wrong. I stare deep into her dark brown eyes, searching for the emotions I need to read just right. I don't want to blow this moment.

"You can kiss me back if you like," she says.

I don't hesitate. Her lips are soft and warm against mine. I hold myself back as best I can, not wanting to overwhelm her with my feelings. Just a light, gentle kiss, with hopefully a promise of more to come.

"Mmm," she murmurs when we pull apart. "That was nice. You can do that again sometime." She steps through the door. "Night, Clark."

"Night, Lois. See you tomorrow at work."

"Yeah. Night, Lucy," she calls.

***

I have no idea why I kissed him. No idea at all. I mean, I didn't plan to kiss him. We're friends, not lovers.

Maybe I was just feeling sorry for him. Sitting there, stroking his cat and still looking a little sad. Telling me that his friend, Superman, was also feeling bad. Yeah, that was it. A sympathy kiss.

Phew. For a moment there, I thought maybe I was falling for him.

Oh, god. Did I really tell him he could kiss me again?

***

"Well, Lucy, all things considered, I think that went pretty well."

She's stretched out on the other side of the room, studiously studying the carpet. She'll come back here when she thinks she's stayed over there long enough to make her point.

"Thanks for being nice to Lois," I say.

You can almost hear her mutter "Whatever."

Maybe she's jealous. It was only the briefest of kisses, but I guess she's not used to sharing me with another woman.

I smile, liking the sound of that in my head. Me and Lois. Me and Lucy. Me and Lois and Lucy.

Yeah, that works.

And maybe — just maybe — the old man would also approve of his cat's new friend.

She's stirring. Standing up and padding quietly across the carpet. Stopping in front of me and studying the distance to my lap like an athlete preparing for the high jump.

One graceful spring of her hind legs and she's settling on my legs, a warm, comforting bundle of life.

"Thanks for this," I tell the old man who died waiting for Superman. "I never knew how much I needed her until she came into my life."

THE END